A matter of faith
By The Express Tribune Editorial
February 22, 2015
The outcome of last week’s three-day counter-extremism summit in Washington would be judged by the follow-up actions stemming from the exchange of ideas at the forum. The one idea that should be fundamental to any action plan was articulated by US President Barack Obama, who made it clear that he was not seeking global unity to wage a war against Islam, but against those who he thinks have perverted Islam. The majority of over a billion peace-loving Muslims the world over who are genuinely opposed to the perversion of their faith by a minority within would certainly welcome President Obama’s advisedly timely differentiation between Islam and those who kill in its name. And one hopes that the distinction that the US president has made between the faith itself and those who pervert the faith would dissuade those sections of populations in Europe, the US and Australia that have in reaction fallen victim to Islamophobia, from doing things that only end up justifying increased extremism and enhancing in the process, its appeal for new recruits.
Since it is the followers of the Islamic faith who currently find themselves at the receiving as well as firing end, and also at the centre of it all, much of the responsibility for ending the bloodshed rests on the shoulders of the Muslims themselves. However, so far, none of the major Muslim countries, like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt, Turkey and Pakistan have been able to get around to even trying to fathom the idea behind the so-called Islamic State (IS). There are military actions going on against the IS in Iraq and Syria, but it is doubtful that mere military action will be able to root out the menace presented by the likes of the IS.
What is also needed is an effective counter-narrative to the one being propounded by extremists. The lack of moral authority on the part of rulers of Muslim countries or their non-radicalised religious scholars appears to be the main impediment in the way of developing and articulating a more persuasive counter-narrative to the one being disseminated by the IS through the latest social media platforms rolling out of the ever-advancing telecommunication and information technologies. Would a summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation help? Hardly, because the IS’s takfiri doctrine renders all Muslims not declaring prior allegiance to its caliph as apostates.
The US and European democracies stood by most of the autocratic regimes in Muslim countries while the latter abused their people for over a century, especially those that had emerged in the Middle East and Africa after the First World War. These suppressed people tasted for the first time in their lifetimes a modicum of freedom when the developed democracies acted against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, in the name of what was in reality a fabricated ‘jihad’. These people fought this ‘jihad’ with the money and weapons of the developed world but interpreted the collapse of the Soviet Union as an exclusive achievement of ‘jihad’, therefore, felt no qualms in turning this weapon against its fabricators, the US and the West, for standing by Muslim autocracies while they strangled democratic aspirations of their teeming subjects.
The 9/11 attacks were a colossal tragedy. But the rage that overtook the mental faculties of the Bush Administration in the aftermath blinded it into rushing into Iraq and Afghanistan with guns blazing, with not a thought for the heavy human toll resulting from massive collateral damage. What is happening today in the region that is under the control of the IS is the direct result of this magnificent US folly. How does one rectify this folly? As stated previously, a military solution alone would not work. It needs to be accompanied by an effective counter-narrative to be articulated by those who command credibility in the minds of the target audience of extremist groups like the IS.